A matter of respect


Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi withdrew from a long-planned interview with CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, after she declined a last-minute demand to wear a head scarf.

I don’t suppose Amanpour sent Raisi a last-minute demand to wear underpants on his head. Why does he think he gets to tell her what to put on her head? She doesn’t go to his school, she doesn’t have to wear its uniform.

Amanpour, who grew up in the Iranian capital Tehran and is a fluent Farsi speaker, said that she wears a head scarf while reporting in Iran to comply with the local laws and customs, “otherwise you couldn’t operate as a journalist.” But she said that she would not cover her head to conduct an interview with an Iranian official outside a [in a different] country where it is not required.

“Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, I have never been asked by any Iranian president — and I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995 — either inside or outside of Iran, never been asked to wear a head scarf,” she said on CNN’s “New Day” program Thursday.

Iran is stuck on the down escalator.

Amanpour said that Raisi’s aide made clear that the interview — which would have been the Iranian president’s first on American soil — would not happen if she did not wear a head scarf. He referred to it as “a matter of respect,” given that it is the holy months of Muharram and Safar, and referred to “the situation in Iran,” alluding to the protests sweeping the country, she added.

Ah but that’s just it. We don’t respect sexist laws that treat women like Obscene Sexual Invitations on two legs. We have deep contempt for such laws.

Anti-government protests erupted across Iran last week over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody, after having been [she was] arrested by Iran’s morality police on an accusation of violating the law on head scarves.

Wearing a large piece of cloth over one’s head and neck should not be a police matter, let alone a custodial matter, let alone a death in police custody matter.

In Iran, the head scarf is a potent symbol of a set of personal rules imposed by the country’s clerical leaders, which govern what people can wear, watch and do. Over the past decade, protests have flared as many Iranians have grown resentful of those limitations.

Sigh. The habit is spreading. Those rules impinge on women far more strictly than they do on men, so at least say “people, especially women,” or better, in a piece on women and hijab, just say “women.” This really is about women, and the violent oppression of them by clerical men.

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